Pedroia returns home for knee exam, to miss series finale

NEW YORK--Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is scheduled to return to Boston Thursday morning for an examination of his right knee, which evidently has been bothering him for the last three weeks.

The Boston Globe reported on its website Wednesday night that Pedroia could require surgery that would sideline him a month. Asked about that possibility, Pedroia replied in a text message: "I'm not having surgery. I'm going to get it checked.'' A team source refuted the assertion that Pedroia needs surgery. "He's getting it checked, that's all,'' the source said.

Pedroia's knee will be examined, a team source said, through an arthroscopic-like procedure developed by Dr. Thomas Gill, the team's medical director, that allows Gill to look into the joint with a miniature camera through a needle. It's a minimally invasive technique.

Pedroia told the Globe he injured his knee making a diving stop on a ball on May 16 against the Baltimore Orioles. Neither he nor the team has made any mention of the knee being a problem since then, and Pedroia has missed just one game since that date, sitting out the middle game of a three-game set in Cleveland on May 24. He has played in the team's last 12 games since, including both ends of a day-night double-header in Detroit on May 29.

That hardly suggests a player on the verge of needing surgery, but the knee has evidently given him enough problems that the team has elected to have team medical director Thomas Gill examine him Thursday at Massachusetts General Hospital. He will not play in Thursday night's finale against the Yankees, the team source said.

The Red Sox have a couple of options at second in Pedroia's absence. The most likely would be to have Marco Scutaro play second, especially with the news Wednesday that the MRI on Jed Lowrie's left shoulder came back clean, according to manager Terry Francona, and he is expected to start Thursday night. Veteran utilityman Drew Sutton is also here, and if Pedroia was out for a prolonged period, the Sox could recall shortstop Jose Iglesias from Pawtucket.

Pedroia is batting .247 this season with an on-base percentage of .361. The batting average is well below the .305 he was hitting entering this season, and the OBP slightly off from his career number, .369, entering 2011.

In the 18 games since he banged his knee, Pedroia is batting .250 (19 for 76). He played all nine innings in each of the team's two wins here in New York, doubling in a run on Tuesday and knocking in another with an infield hit Wednesday, and has reached base five times in the series (three walks). His numbers before banging his knee were about the same--.245 batting average--and his slugging percentage has actually risen significantly since, from .316 before hurting his knee to .384.

The knee has not appeared to impede him on the basepaths, either, as he has stolen six of his 13 bases this season since then, without being caught. He's on a pace to steal 34 bases this season, which would easily eclipse his career high of 20, accomplished in 2008 and 2009.

"It's hard to hit [when] something is wrong with your legs," Pedroia told the Globe. "I've been trying."

Pedroia missed all but two games after fouling a ball off his left foot in San Francisco on June 25, one night after the greatest offensive performance of his career, when he hit three home runs as part of a 5-for-5 game in which he also singled and doubled. After an abortive comeback attempt that lasted just two games in August, Pedroia had surgery Sept. 3 on the navicular bone of his left foot, a procedure that involved inserting a screw to assist in the healing of the fracture.

But while there have been times he has shown flashes of his previous form, this season has been a struggle for Pedroia offensively. "I just don't see him loading up the way he did in the past,'' one major-league scout said recently. "It's made me wonder if he is trying to protect the foot, even subconsciously.''

Pedroia has uncharacteristically expanded his strike zone, too, leading to 39 strikeouts. That puts him on a pace to strike out 104 times, which is double his previous high of 52, and would suggest that the foot injury has had a significant impact on his performance.